In an increasingly uncertain, complex and ever-changing world, the impact on mental health and wellbeing can be profound. To compensate, it’s natural to adopt strategies that avoid experiencing challenging events or minimise feeling any negative emotions. Strategies such as overworking, people pleasing, perfectionism, withdrawing, over-worrying and so on can result. Whilst well intended, these strategies can often fail bringing additional side effects.

This is exacerbated by unrealistic expectations about happiness or success. We're bombarded by what happiness should look like, creating pressure to match a lifestyle that's unrealistic and not necessarily achievable, giving power to an external source of happiness, at the expense of our own internal wisdom. Reports about the rise of people's struggles with their mental health can further play a part as symptoms can become another thing you wish to resist experiencing.

Attempts to address mental health symptoms or make self-improvement from the mindset of being flawed, feeling not enough, that other people are better or that life is possible to control, exacerbates the original problem. On top of what's already being experienced, are additional potential layers of self-criticism, frustration, anxiety and sadness from trying to be superhuman, akin to constant rejection. This has the impact of increasing the duration and severity of any problem or symptom.

I believe a healthier and happier strategy is to incorporate working towards self-acceptance alongside any goal. This could involve greater self-awareness and embracing the realities of life including:

  • recognising that everyone (despite appearances) has strengths and opportunity areas, experiences both success and failure as well as good and bad times. No one person is universally attractive, likeable or skilled. We have unique talents and attributes compatible to certain people or tasks. Acceptance of this naturally radiates a confidence and attractiveness to others
  • learning to self-reflect, acknowledge and process emotions, as well as discerning inner wisdom may lead to greater happiness and productivity
  • rather than viewing difficulties, rejection or failure as something to chastise, consider a longer-term process of success and happiness. This would be something to help progress goals, strengthen an important quality or change direction. A helping hand rather than a setback, learning to go with the natural flow of life rather than attempting to control it

Whilst therapeutically you may be working with acceptance, making this goal explicit in the counselling room I believe is fundamental for success. This will help highlight any subconscious behaviours and direct effort towards a more achievable and realistic goal, enhancing the effectiveness of any tools and strategies. It’s also arguably less daunting than trying to change appearance, personality or life.

Further benefits include a greater capacity for: happiness, self-compassion, self-care, happier and healthier relationships, seeking out opportunities, standing up to situations or people that no longer serve, more optimism for the future, increased resilience to overcome difficulties and more ability to prevent and manage mental health symptoms.